The Primal Blog

Why Dog Parks Are a Bad Idea and Why Off Leash Dogs Suck Part Two

This post actually applies to dog parks and any place where people decide to let their dog be off leash despite the fact that their dog is supposed to be leashed. A very small percentage of dogs have been trained to the extent that their off leash skills are impeccable and worthy of actually being off leash. For the other 99% of dogs this is not the case, but that does not stop the vast majority of owners from letting their dogs run wild all the while not knowing how to truly gauge the temperament of their dog. The excuses are vast when dogs are growling, snarling, snapping, pinning other dogs to the ground or even attacking other dogs. We all hear it all the time, people will say how friendly their dog is and how great they are with all dogs, but usually it is that people are overall unable to come to terms with the idea that their dog might not be as friendly with people, dogs, or social situations as they thought. I have spoke to Mike Jones (the owner and head trainer of Primal Canine) about many times; it is not that people are bad owners, it is simply just that people are not in touch with or have a legitimate understanding of dog behavior, body language and basic training/dog manners.

 

Something I hear often is the term “socialization.” Many people perceive dog parks as a necessary step in the socialization of their dog while believing that socialization comes from a dog experiencing many unknown people, places, dogs and stimuli all at once, and over and over again. As this surely counts as life experience and definitely counts as placing a dog under environmental stress…this is NOT proper socialization. Expecting that your dog will get along with all other dogs is like expecting a human being to love all other human beings. This is unrealistic and in this situation dogs are no different. I find it troublesome when people bring dogs to public places who are clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation as they are flanked with strange dogs and people. This brings me to the next thing I commonly hear from owners, “oh he/she is just nervous, he/she just needs to get used to people/dogs/the park etc.” Well, thrusting your dog into an awkward and uncomfortable social situation is a sure fire way to set the stage for a disaster. If your dog is aggressive or nervous around other people and dogs, what you need is training – THEN structured socialization, not forced, unstructured discomfort in hopes that your dog just works through their issues on their own. Dog parks and public parks are NOT the place to socialize your dog, or bring a dog that an owner can otherwise not control on leash, so it is the last resort for this dog to have exercise.

 

It is exhausting and scary for those of us who are being responsible and leashing our dogs to watch all of the dog fights and scuffles that occur and wonder if next it will be our dog that is attacked or approached by a poorly mannered dog whose owner is none the wiser. This brings me to the next concern I have; I have four “Pit Bulls” and if there is a conflict even if my dog is licensed, well trained, leashed and the victim defending itself – my dog will be blamed. While walking on what is supposed to be a leashed dog area in a wildlife reserve park yesterday, my leashed American Bully was mounted and humped on three separate occasions by different dogs. Each time the owners not only did nothing, but they stood there and laughed as their dog humped my dog because to them it was funny. My dog, as most dogs, tried to get away and after about 15 seconds began trying to nip at the other dog – suddenly the owners cared about the situation and pulled their unleashed dog off of my dog. The most ridiculous part of each instance where this happened (all three times) the owners only cared about controlling their dog when they thought their dog was in danger of being bitten by a “Pit Bull.” Allowing your unleashed dog to run free out of your sight, knowing that your dog loves to be the dog park rapist is a great way for your dog to get bitten. The lack of manners on the part of owners and dogs alike does not even stop there. I have issues walking my dogs in my neighborhood where people constantly allow their off leash dog to run up to my dog and from dozens of yards away yell about how friendly their dog is. Well, that’s great but what if my dog was not? Once again suddenly my dog would be the aggressor because of their breed and the other dog would be labeled the victim because it was just a friendly Lab, Spaniel, Shih Tzu or whatever just strolling up to say hello. That situation would never be acceptable if it was reversed.

 

Overall, public places are supposed to be safe places where people and dogs can enjoy their outing and not have to worry if their dog is going to be safe or not. Leash laws are there to protect your dog and others dogs. Not leashing your dog is ruining the experience of the owners who are actually being responsible. Please remember to be competent about your dog’s likes and dislikes and ability to be in social situations, and always leash your dog. 

Why Dog Parks Are a Bad Idea

A lot of people love taking their dogs to a dog park because they believe this is the best way to socialize a dog and just allow their dog to let loose, get some energy out and have some fun with other dogs. But there are major issues with showing up to a crowded dog park, and just letting your dog loose. I have not taken my dogs to a dog park in years. As much as we would like to think that every dog present in the park is well behaved, and universally friendly with all dogs and people, that thought is naïve. The majority of people who own dogs are not aware of what their dog’s true temperament is because we tend to be biased with our own dogs. For the most part, almost everyone will say their dog is friendly, great with people, super social etc., and this is likely to be said because we have either only observed our dogs in limited interactions and scenarios, or because often people will make excuses for and defend their dog’s behavior because of the inability that a novice person has to recognize fear, anxiety, people/dog/food/toy aggression in their dog. From there, signs of behavior that needs to be addressed and corrected are ignored and people persist to place their dogs in situations where they can either fail or their dog can be the victim of another dog’s owner failing to be mindful of the fact that their dog should not be at a park and not be off leash with other dogs.

 

When dogs are thrown into unknown situations, with unknown factors like the stimulation/commotion that is a dog park, with random people/children, tennis balls, treats, and the greatest factor of all, other dogs- there is no precise or predictable outcome. With this being said it is our job as responsible owners to minimize the likelihood that our dogs are placed in an environment or situation where we have so little control of who and what our pets come come into contact with. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people bring their children into the dog park and allow them to ride bikes, people whom allow their dogs to hump other dogs and people, and dogs that are clearly dog aggressive freely running around nipping at other dogs...the list goes on. The tension and uncertainly within a crowded dog park is like that of a prison yard. I say this not because dogs share a likeness to criminals but the factors that are unknown in the given environment make it as such. At a moment’s notice tempers can flare, fights can break out, and the vast majority of people escalate the situation by yelling and screaming while they hit and kick their dog or someone else’s. Interestingly enough, this does not even discourage most from staying at the dog park, or returning the next day. As a smart person once said in regards to defining insanity, it is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

 

I guess my point is that the only thing we can do is know our dogs the absolute best we can, train them as best we can and in this process become aware of any issues our dogs may have that could at some point endanger themselves or others and lastly address those. I would steer clear of dog parks. The majority of people are not competent enough to know that even the best behaved and trained dogs can become reactive dogs if placed under the right amount of stress. Incidents at dog parks can create aggression, fear and anxiety within your dog, even if those issues may have not existed before. There is no sense in setting our dogs up for a potentially volatile outcome if we can prevent it. Of course this does not mean that we shouldn’t socialize our dogs with other dogs, or walk them in public ever again. The point I stress is knowing your dog and socializing your dog with others who are competent and educated about their dog as well.